Understanding What the Discovery Process Really Looks Like in Practice
U.S. Federal District Courts had a 16% increase in civil cases in 2019-2020. These cases vary from malpractice suits to personal injury cases, to appeals.
Do you think you have a lawsuit claim? You should know that it can take about a year to resolve. Some cases can get settled in a few months. Other cases take years to resolve.
It all depends on the circumstances of your lawsuit and how much it’s worth. An expensive lawsuit, such as a large class-action suit, takes years to settle.
The discovery process is often the most time-consuming part of a lawsuit. It’s also the most important part of your case.
Read on to learn what the discovery process is and how long it takes.
What Is the Discovery Process?
The discovery process is a part of a case where attorneys go on fact-finding missions to get the details of a case.
They conduct interviews with witnesses, gather documents related to a case, and discover the other side’s arguments.
Attorneys have to prepare questions and review answers. They may also have to file motions in court if they didn’t get all of the information related to the case.
Discovery has its place in case litigation. Think of case litigation as a legal case, such as a lawsuit or criminal case. There are steps and procedures that litigation lawyers must follow for each case.
What are litigation lawyers? They’re attorneys that work to protect the general public. They can work in consumer law or personal injury law.
Discovery happens once a lawsuit is filed in court. The other steps of case litigation are the filing of motions, expert witness interviews, and settlement negotiations or trial preparations.
Good attorneys are aware of discovery process rules. They are able to form legal strategies that help them win in court, or have an advantage in a settlement.
The information gathered in the discovery phase of case litigation determines the outcome of a case. That’s why it’s the most time-consuming part of a case.
How long is the discovery phase? It varies from case to case. You can expect it to take anywhere from 1-6 months to complete. Highly complex cases require more time for discovery.
Formal Discovery vs. Informal Discovery
The length of time it takes to complete the discovery process depends on your case. Attorneys may decide to go with a formal or informal discovery process.
Informal discovery often begins before a case gets filed in court. Some of the evidence gathered here tells an attorney if there’s a case or not.
Informal discovery involves interviews and document gathering. They may have to contact insurance companies to learn more about the policy coverage related to the case.
Informal discovery isn’t bound by rules or legal requirements. That helps the discovery process go a little faster.
Formal discovery gives attorneys more legal options to gather information. For example, attorneys can subpoena documents or witnesses.
They can ask for interrogatories, where a person answers written questions under oath. Formal discovery can involve depositions.
In family law cases, attorneys may opt for an informal discovery process. In more contentious cases, a formal discovery process is more appropriate.
It’s important to note that one attorney can’t declare a formal discovery process. The opposing attorney can file motions in court to dispute the necessity of such tactics.
It’s then up to the judge to decide what happens in the discovery process. These issues add to the amount of time discovery takes.
How You Can Help the Discovery Process
Believe it or not, you can be incredibly helpful to your attorney in the discovery process. The actions that you take immediately following the incident are critical.
For example, if you’re filing a lawsuit in a car accident, you have to provide as much documentation as you can. Pictures of the scene and property damage, police reports, and doctor’s visits are all essential to the discovery process.
If you decided at the time it wasn’t worth it to call the police, you can do damage to your chances of getting a good settlement.
You’ll face a similar situation in a consumer protection case. Let’s say that you’re filing a lawsuit against a collection agency for Fair Debt Collections Practices Act violations.
The documentation you provide an attorney is crucial. You should have notes from calls, who you spoke with, and what those calls were about.
The Settlement Phase of Case Litigation
What happens after the discovery process? If both sides are content with the information gathered and shared, the case is likely to move on to the settlement phase.
Most civil cases settle out of court to avoid timely and expensive court battles. The settlement phase starts with both attorneys negotiating a fair settlement.
They go back and forth based on the information found in the discovery process. If they can’t settle quickly, they will enter mediation.
A mediation hearing is held by a third-party, certified mediator. The mediator asks each side questions with the goal of reaching an agreement.
If both sides still are far apart in negotiations, the only other option is a trial. This is rare, but it does occur.
Understanding Case Litigation
If you’re getting ready to file a lawsuit, you have to know what to expect. You can’t expect a lawsuit to get resolved in just a few weeks.
Attorneys have a specific process to follow. They gather information, file a lawsuit in court, and both sides engage in the discovery process.
This is where the attorneys gather as much information as they can about the case. The information they find is helpful in coming up with a settlement agreement.
Be sure to check out the other helpful articles on the blog today!